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Six Ways Not to Blow Your Diet During the Holidays

by Susannah Wollman

Did you know that many people gain about a pound between Thanksgiving and New Years? In fact, any holiday can bring on the weight gain! If you’ve been fighting the “battle of the bulge,” you might want to take a look at our suggestions on ways to avoid sabotaging your diet during the upcoming season.

1) Start the season with plenty of sleep

This is a hard one for many people, especially those with children. You’re trying to hold down a job, manage your household, and celebrate the holidays so your kids will have the kind of memories like those of your childhood. But studies have shown that lack of adequate sleep can contribute to obesity.[1] So make sure you’re getting enough rest, even if that means letting some things go.


2) Control your stress levels

Managing stress at any time is not an easy matter, but to keep the weight off, it is absolutely necessary. In addition to adding weight, stress-induced health problems are at an all-time high. When you experience stress, cortisol is released in your body. That’s fine—unless it’s a frequent (or even constant) state for you. Additionally, some people are stress-eaters. And with all the goodies around during the holidays, that leads to unwanted calories.

According to Edward T. Creagan, M.D. from Mayo Clinic, “[Y]ou may be especially likely to eat high-calorie foods during times of stress, even when you’re not hungry.”[2]

3) Don’t feel you must be a taste tester

If you’re the cook, you may feel that taste testing is important. If so, just a tiny bite will tell you what you need to know. And when others want you to taste what they’re cooking, kindly just say no.

4) Watch those liquid calories!

During the holidays, you may be tempted by the abundance of alcoholic beverages and sugar-sweetened sodas. But the empty calories in sodas do nothing but add the pounds. In fact, since sodas are often diuretic, you want to drink even more. Sparkling water (unsweetened) can add a festive touch to water and is much better for your health.

Interestingly, overindulging with alcohol can lead to hunger. But you don’t need more food to add calories; that drink alone adds plenty. Alcohol is the second most calorie-rich nutrient after fat — packing about 7 calories per gram. Beer has a similar number of calories as sugary soft drinks, ounce for ounce, whereas red wine has twice as much.[3]

5) Limit how many desserts you eat

This one may seem obvious; we all know that excess sugar leads to excess calories.[4] So you know to take only one piece of Aunt Sue’s favorite fudge. But you don’t also have to eat the piece of pie and a few of the cookies, and… Instead of taking a piece of every dessert (after all, Christmas only comes once a year, right?), choose your favorite, take a small piece, and savor it slowly.

6) Use a smaller plate

When lots of people get together during the holidays, potlucks can really save the bucks. However, the temptation to have “just a little bit of everything” can really pile your plate high. The trick? Use a smaller plate. And once you have piled on the food, make sure you can still see the plate. Since people tend to eat more from a bigger plate, control your portions by using a salad plate instead.

As you get together with friends and loved ones this year, remember how hard-won those pounds lost were. Keep your wits about you and make wise choices to avoid gaining them back!


[1] Ogilvie, R. P., & Patel, S. R. (2017, October). The epidemiology of sleep and Obesity. Sleep health. Retrieved November 12, 2021, from

[2] How to manage stress and avoid overeating when stressed. (2017). Mayo Clinic.

[3] Alcohol and Health: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. (2018, October 29). Healthline.

[4] Harvard Health Publishing. (2017, May). The sweet danger of sugar – Harvard Health. Harvard Health; Harvard Health.